How NOT to Make a Fundraising Plan

Fundraising. While it’s something so common in the nonprofit world, it can be a beast to tackle ― and get it right. A successful fundraising plan has every aspect down to a science. But things don’t always go as planned. Humans mess up, people get busy, and some things just fall through. But we can teach you how to avoid some of these issues!

By knowing these issues ahead of time, you can better prepare yourself for possible troubles ahead. Let’s talk about some common mistakes that might be holding you back.

1. Not having your plan in writing

Most fundraisers go into the planning process with an idea for what they want to do. Having a starting point is essential. But brains aren’t the most stable place to keep important information. You can’t be sure you won’t forget aspects of your ideas or accidentally change them as time goes on. 

This is why it’s so important to write out your plan. The brainstorming process is all about throwing any and all ideas out, and then narrowing it down to the ones with merit. But it gets significantly harder if it only exists in your head. Also, there’s no one to hold you accountable if no one else can see it. Unless it’s written out, it’s not real. 

2. Having unclear goals or no goals at all

While you’re writing out your plan, set clear, measurable, and attainable goals. It’s pretty difficult to achieve success without defining what “success” means for you. Give yourself something to work towards and set out steps to accomplish that goal along the way.

Having measurable goals also goes a long way to keep yourself accountable. A goal like “attract more donors” is too arbitrary and uses weasel words. “More” could mean three or fifty. A specific goal like, “Raise 10% more funds than last year” will help you out more in the long run.

3. Making everything perfect

Obviously, it would be great if everything worked out perfectly. But this is real life, and that rarely happens. Prepare for the inevitable. Things won’t always work out as well as you’d hope they would. You may want to spend days on one part of your fundraising plan because you know you can make it better. But then you just end up being days behind schedule and having to scramble to make up for lost time.

Focus on getting tasks done and checking them off the list, then move on. Having tasks done is better than sheer perfection ― or at least more realistic.

4. Neglecting your donors

Don’t get tunnel vision and only think about the money. Focus on where it comes from. Continuous communication with your donors is key. Show interest in creating a deeper relationship with them ― not just reaching out when you need them. This will make them more willing to give when you actually do call on them for help.

Set aside time to reach out personally to donors. You could even make a “donor calling” event, spending a whole day communicating with and thanking your donors.

5. Not making time to plan

We know your to-do list is seemingly never-ending. There will always be more to do. But planning is an essential and timely process. Create time in your schedule to focus on creating a detailed fundraising plan, and you’ll be better prepared to tackle your to-do list.

Start earlier than you think you’d need to. Giving yourself plenty of time in advance allows for those inevitable human errors, and time to fix them.

6. Taking on too much

Don’t overload your plate. You can only handle so many responsibilities! Everyone wants to be that “yes” man who can help out with every step of the plan. But it’s just not realistic. Even with a thorough, step-by-step plan, taking on too much inevitably leads to burnout.

Be kind to yourself and your team, and plan realistically.


Olivia Layne

As a Content Strategist for Nonprofit Hub, Olivia writes blog posts and magazine articles. She is a double major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studying Journalism and Advertising and Public Relations. In her free time, Olivia enjoys baking, playing video games, and hiking.

December 10, 2020

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